For white wine lovers used to chardonnay or sauvignon blanc, torrontés is going to be an acquired taste, but one that I think will grow on them. This aromatic variety, which is native to Argentina and is perhaps the country’s most important white grape, is gaining popularity here and deserves consideration as a relatively inexpensive and interesting alternative to more familiar whites. Typically enjoyed young and fresh, the 2009s are out now and a couple of them are worthy of attention for pairing with a variety of foods, especially spicy fish, shrimp, sushi and chicken dishes.
If there is one quality that distinguishes torrontés, it is the grape’s floral undertones that might remind some of gewürztraminer. This backdrop, when combined with vivid fruit notes, produces wines of considerable complexity and charm. Alas, they can also be one-dimensional and dull.
Trapiche’s 2009 Torrontés from the winery’s “Varietals” series is simple but delicious. Light straw in color, this wine from the Mendoza appellation is subtly herbal and floral with notes of green apple joined by minerals on a surprisingly long finish. It’s a real bargain at $7. Alcohol is 13.5 percent. Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons, New York.
Finca Ferrer’s 2009 Acordeón Torrontés from the the Cafayate Valley is in a somewhat fuller style and is priced at $9 or so. Straw colored, it’s more aggressively floral with notes of lime and honey and has a pleasing roundness. Alochol is 13.9 percent. Imported by Freixenet USA, Sonoma, California.
Bodega Tamari’s 2009 Torrontés Reserva from Argentina’s Rioja region is fresh yet elegant with notes of pear, grapefruit, lemon and a bit of cream with a subtle backdrop of flowers. I enjoyed it with a lunch of sliced asparagus, onions and pancetta sautéed with bit of Balsamic vinegar and tossed with pasta. Alcohol is 13.3 percent. $15. Imported by Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Illinois.
One thing I noticed about all these wines: they were better on the second or even third day after I opened them; clearly aeration brings out the flavors and helps them “settle down” a bit. You might even considering decanting them. I doubt that torrontés will overtake the chardonnays or sauvignon blancs of the world any time soon in terms of popularity, but I think it can become a nice addition to your white portfolio, especially for warm-weather drinking. Have you tasted a torrontés? Let me know what you think. (Wines received as press samples.)